In New Hampshire, vaccine fights and misinformation roil GOP

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Republican Representative Ken Weiler was known around the New Hampshire statehouse to dismiss the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines and to protest tens of millions of dollars in federal funding to promote vaccination.

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But when 79-year-old Weiler, a retired commercial pilot and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate who chaired the legislature’s powerful financial committee, sent a 52-page report comparing vaccines to “organised mass murder,” Republican leaders were called upon to act. was forced to do.

“I don’t know of anyone who would agree with that. It’s absolute madness,” said Republican House Speaker Sherman Packard, who quickly accepted Weyler’s resignation from his committee position.

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The episode was particularly piercing in New Hampshire, where the previous House speaker died of COVID-19 last year. It has also exposed Republicans’ relentless struggle to root out the misinformation that has engulfed its ranks across the country.

A year and a half into the pandemic, poll shows Republicans are less concerned about the threat from COVID-19 or its variants, less confident in science, less likely to be vaccinated than Democrats and independents, and more opposed to vaccine mandates. Is.

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It is a combination of considerations that come with obvious health risks – and potential political consequences. In a place like New Hampshire, where Republicans are hoping to win congressional seats next year, politicians with fringe views stand up to distract voters from the party’s agenda, driving away independents and moderates.

The risk is especially evident in “live free or die” New Hampshire, where the fight over vaccines has activated the liberal wing of the GOP. The divisions have the potential to dominate next year’s Republican primary.

“Over the next year I wonder if it’s all just the tip of the iceberg or the whole iceberg,” said Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.

Republicans in New Hampshire have been struggling to unite around a common situation since the pandemic first emerged.

Republican Governor Chris Sununu has been widely praised for his handling of the pandemic, but has also drawn criticism from conservative critics. They have pushed back her state of emergency, which has put limits on business functions and public gatherings, often leading to rowdy protests, including some at her home.

Sununu, who is running for Senate next year against Democratic US Senator Maggie Hassan, joined other Republican leaders in opposing the federal vaccine mandate. But it did little to placate his critics, who repeatedly yelled at fellow Republicans during a press conference last month for opposing the federal mandate.

The crowd, including a protester with “I will die before obeying” and an automatic weapon at his back, occupied the podium and erected their own speakers, who had predicted without evidence that the mandate was the state’s Hospitals will be forced to set off.

Republican leaders’ opposition to the federal vaccine mandate prompted a Republican lawmaker, Rep. William Marsh, to switch parties.

Marsh, a retired ophthalmologist, said, “The belief that is being put forward is that their individual rights trump everything, that no one has the right to impose a vaccine mandate on an individual, in this particular case.” don’t have the right.” Chair of the House Health and Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee. “I believe that, for people in a civilized society, individual rights become limited when they begin to encroach upon the rights of others.”

The Weyler controversy began last month when he first questioned Health and Human Services figures about hospitalizations in the state. He suggested that most of those hospitalized were vaccinated, leading the state health commissioner to accuse him of spreading misinformation. In fact, 90% of those hospitalized were not vaccinated, she said.

Gallup polling from September found that 57% of Democrats are very or somewhat worried about having the coronavirus, compared to 18% of Republicans. Democrats are also more confident that vaccines will protect against new variants and more confidently in science – 79% compared to 45% of Republicans.

Weiler was among a group of Republican lawmakers who were so opposed to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate that they insisted on rejecting millions in federal funding to aid vaccination efforts. This week, $27 million was rejected by the Republican-controlled Executive Council, a five-member panel that approves state contracts, despite calls from Sununu to accept funding.

The money would have allowed the state public health manager and a dozen workers to address public vaccine concerns. But opponents feared that the state would be required to comply with any “future directives” issued by the Biden administration regarding COVID-19, such as a vaccine mandate.

After the vote, Sununu was forced to back down against a suggestion that this was the new Republican Party stance.

“I don’t think most of the people protesting were part of the Republican Party. These are anti-government, shut-down, no-government-at-all-costs individuals,” he told reporters.

Reconstruction NH, one of the groups opposing the mandate, responded at an executive council meeting on Friday by calling Sununu autocratic for the arrests of the protesters and demanding that Sununu be reprimanded for his role in “this crime against the people of New Hampshire.” For that they should be condemned.

Democrats have seized on GOP divisions,…

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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